Under the CN Tower, "The Canadian" trans-continental train waits to leave Toronto...

VIA 1 is ready to go!  Train number 1, the Canadian waits to leave Toronto's Union Station beneath the famous CN Tower - CN standing for Canadian National Railways, of course.

Buy train tickets in Canada


Toronto - Winnipeg - Edmonton - Jasper - Vancouver

It's one of the world's greatest train journeys.  A trans-continental train called the Canadian links Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Jasper & Vancouver twice a week all year round, operated by VIA Rail Canada, Canada's national train operator.  The whole journey takes 4 nights and the train consists of the original stainless-steel coaches built for the Canadian Pacific Railway's Canadian in 1954-55.  You can travel very affordably in Economy class in a reclining seat, or in Sleeper Plus class with a private sleeping-car room and restaurant car meals included.  And there are deluxe Prestige class sleepers too, introduced in 2014.  Crossing Canada by train is an amazing experience, as this page will show.

small bullet point  Timetable westbound

small bullet point  Timetable eastbound

small bullet point  How much does it cost?

small bullet point  How to buy tickets

small bullet point  What's the train like?

small bullet point  What's the journey like?

small bullet point  Watch the video!

small bullet point  Luggage arrangements

small bullet point  Travel tips

small bullet point  A brief history

small bullet point  Suggested hotels


On other pages:

small bullet point  Rocky Mountaineer

small bullet point  Montreal to Halifax on the Océan

small bullet point  Other train routes in Canada

small bullet point  Train travel in the USA


Timetable westbound 2024

 Toronto ► Winnipeg ► Vancouver


 VIA Rail train number 1, The Canadian


 Toronto  depart:

09:55  (day 1)

Wed & Sun



17:52  (day 1)

Wed & Sun


 Sioux Lookout

11:55  (day 2)

Thur & Mon


 Winnipeg  arrive:

19:30  (day 2)

Thur & Mon

 Winnipeg  depart:

21:30  (day 2)

Thur & Mon



11:50  (day 3)

Fri & Tue


 Edmonton  arrive:

20:50  (day 3)

Fri & Tue

 Edmonton  depart:

00:01  (day 4)

Sat & Wed


 Jasper  arrive:

06:30  (day 4)

Sat & Wed

 Jasper  depart:

09:30  (day 4)

Sat & Wed


 Kamloops North

19:03  (day 4)

Sat & Wed


 Vancouver  arrive:

08:00  (day 5)

Sun & Thur

Timetable eastbound 2024

 Vancouver ► Winnipeg ► Toronto

VIA Rail train number 2, The Canadian

 Vancouver  depart:

15:00  (day 1)

Mon & Fri

 Kamloops North

00:52  (day 2)

Tue & Sat

 Jasper  arrive:

11:00  (day 2)

Tue & Sat

 Jasper  depart:

12:30  (day 2)

Tue & Sat

 Edmonton  arrive:

18:50  (day 2)

Tue & Sat

 Edmonton  depart:

19:50  (day 2)

Tue & Sat


06:57  (day 3)

Wed & Sun

 Winnipeg  arrive:

22:00  (day 3)

Wed & Sun

 Winnipeg  depart:

23:30  (day 3)

Wed & Sun

 Sioux Lookout

06:51  (day 4)

Thur & Mon


04:27  (day 5)

Fri & Tue

 Toronto  arrive:

14:29  (day 5)

Fri & Tue

Notes for timetable

You can check times & fares for a specific date & find a timetable covering every stopping point at www.viarail.ca.

Remember this train crosses 4 time zones, all times are local time!  On-board announcements will tell you when to put your clocks forward or back.

Allow for delays!  The Canadian shares tracks with freight trains and can run late, meaning hours not minutes.  Do not book any onward train, bus or flight in the 24 hours after scheduled arrival so you can travel stress free and take things in your stride.  However, the current significantly slower timetable was introduced in July 2018, designed to ease the delay problem.  Indeed, since July 2018 the Canadian can now arrive an hour or two early, although you can remain on board until scheduled arrival time.  But still, don't book any onward connections within 24h!

Train connection between Ottawa, Montreal & Toronto:  See here.

Train connection between New York & Toronto:  See here.

Bus/ferry connection between Vancouver & Victoria BC:  See here.

How much does it cost?


  One way per person in CAD inc tax

Economy Class

reclining seat

Sleeper Plus Class

berth in a section*

Sleeper Plus Class

roomette or bedroom**

Prestige class


 Toronto to Vancouver (or vice versa):

From $444

From $1,109

From $1,785

From $4,655

 Toronto to Winnipeg (or vice versa):

From $218

From $613

From $991

From $2,601

 Toronto to Jasper (or vice versa):

From $367

From $830

From $1,336

From $3,507

 Jasper to Vancouver (or vice versa):

From $148

From $497

From $799

From $1,888

 Fares vary by time of year, higher June to October, lower Jan-May & Nov-Dec.

 * = Fare for an upper berth in a section.  A lower berth costs a little more.

 ** = Fare per person for 1 person in a roomette or 2 in a bedroom.  1 person in a bedroom costs 50% more.

 *** = Fare per person for two people sharing one compartment.  Sole occupancy costs twice this price.

 Check fares for your date & class at  www.viarail.ca.

At the time of writing, 1 USD = 1.3 CAD.  £1 = 1.6 CAD.

How to buy tickets

Buy tickets for VIA Rail Canada trains Buy VIA Rail tickets

  Amtrak Vacations cross-country train trips

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Book a package with Amtrak Vacations

Book a package with Railbookers

What's the train like?

Economy class seats

Economy class usually consists of two seats cars and a skyline lounge/dome car up front immediately behind the locomotives & baggage car.  Economy Class seats cars have comfortable reclining seats with a 40 degree recline, leg-rest and loads of legroom.  All seats have a power outlet and you can buy a blanket & pillow set from the skyline car if you haven't brought your own.  An Economy class seat costs a fraction of the price of a Sleeper Plus berth, and with a coffee shop, lounge area and observation dome, the facilities in Economy class are still excellent.  It's an experience streets ahead of a flight, and vastly more comfortable than a bus.  My advice?  Break up the trip with stopovers in Winnipeg & Jasper if you don't want to spend 4 nights in a row in a seat. 

Economy class seats on VIA Rail's 'Canadian'   Economy class seats on VIA Rail's 'Canadian'

Economy Class seating.  Seats have a generous recline, fold-out leg-rests & power socket. 

Economy seats showing legroom, drop-down table and the extent of recline.  Each pair of seats can be rotated if desired.

Economy class skyline car

The skyline car has a lounge at one end, tables & chairs at the other, an observation dome in the centre with attendant's galley underneath.  In the skyline you can buy tea, coffee, Canadian red & white wine by the glass, spirits, beer, snacks & microwaved hot meals.  Seats in the dome are first-come first-served, it's not normally a problem to find a seat up there, although you're asked not to hog dome seats for the whole trip and give others a go.  Incidentally, some skyline cars still have the older 1990s blue interior as shown here, others have the newer 2000s green & brown interior as shown here.

A skyline car on the Toronto-Vancouver train   A skyline dome on the Toronto-Vancouver train

Skyline car with its distinctive observation dome.

Observation dome in the skyline car...

A skyline coffee shop on the Canadian train   A skyline lounge on the Canadian train

Coffee shop at one end of the skyline car...

Lounge at the other end of the skyline car.

Sleeper Plus class

The majority of the train is Sleeper Plus class, formerly called Silver & Blue class and then briefly Sleeper Touring Class.  Sleeper Plus class consists of a number of Manor class sleeping-cars, serviced by a skyline lounge/dome car and a restaurant car.  In summer you may find two skyline/restaurant car pairs, termed A & B, each serving a neighbouring series of sleeping-cars.  In Sleeper Plus class you have your own sleeping-berth in either an open-plan section, a single-berth roomette or a 2-berth bedroom, the fare includes all meals in the elegant Sleeper Plus restaurant car, complimentary tea, coffee & morning juice in the skyline car.  After 16:00 every day you can use the famous Park car, with its full-service bar, dome and bullet lounge, although the Park car is restricted to Prestige class passengers between 06:00 & 16:00.  You can also use the business class lounge at Toronto Union Station.  Below, Manor class sleeping-car Bliss Manor at Saskatoon...

A Manor class sleeping-car on VIA train 1, the Canadian

Above:  Manor class sleeping-car Bliss Manor at Saskatoon.  Below:  Layout of a Manor sleeper (click image for larger plan)

Layout of a Manor class sleeping-car on VIA Rail's Toronto-Vancouver train

Sections = open-plan seats that convert to bunks

Described on the VIA Rail website as upper berth and lower berth but more traditionally called sections, these are the cheapest type of sleeper.  Sections are not enclosed compartments, but open-plan seats arranged in pairs facing each other each side of the aisle, see the photo below left.  The person with the slightly more expensive lower berth gets the seat facing forward during the day.  At night, the attendant makes up the berths by pulling the two seats together and placing a mattress & bedding on them to form the lower berth, and an upper berth folds out from the wall - see the photo below right.  Heavy curtains are then fitted to each bunk for privacy.  There's a shower & toilets nearby, clean towels, soap & shampoo are all provided.  Incidentally, if you've seen Marilyn Monroe in Some Like it Hot, then you'll have seen sections - the girl band travels from Chicago to Florida in a sleeping-car with sections.  Bring your own Marilyn...

Tip:  One downside of sections, apart from the lack of privacy when in day mode, is that there are no power sockets, but you can usually recharge your phone, laptop or camera using sockets in the skyline lounge or table areas. 

Sections (upper & lower berths) in daytime mode   Sections (upper & lower berths)  in nighttime mode

Sections by day.  Three open-plan 'sections' are located at one end of each Manor sleeping-car, although VIA Rail now calls them upper & lower berths.  This photo shows seats/berths 1U & 1L on the left with 3U & 3L in the background.  2U & 2L are out of shot to the right, opposite 1U & 1L.  U & L stand for upper & lower, of course. 

Sections by night, converted to upper & lower berths, each berth has a heavy curtain for privacy.  This is 3U & 3L.  Berths 4U & 4L no longer exist, replaced by the shower room.

Roomettes for one person  360º photo day   360º photo night

A roomette is a fully-enclosed lockable compartment, described on the VIA Rail website as a cabin for 1.  They're a significant step up in privacy & price from a section.  Each Manor class sleeping-car has four roomettes at one end, with the train always marshalled so that the seats face forward.  A roomette is very compact, just big enough for a large armchair with plenty of legroom, opposite a padded leg-rest with a toilet bowl hidden underneath.  There's a small washbasin in the corner, with hot & cold taps plus a drinking water tap with cups provided.  The bed is stored vertically behind the seat, and at night it hinges down to fill most of the roomette as you can see below right.  The bed tapers, so with the bed lowered there's just about room to stand next to the bed with the door closed.  However, heavy curtains are provided in the doorway so you can keep the door open and back into the corridor to get in and out of bed, hidden by the curtains.  You need to raise the bed again to use the toilet underneath the footrest, but if you prefer you can use the public toilets at the other end of the sleeping-car.  There's a hot shower in each sleeping-car - clean towels, soap & shampoo are all provided in your roomette.  Each roomette also comes with tissues, two power sockets and an electric fan.

A single-bed roomette on the train from Toronto to Vancouver   A roomette on the train from Toronto to Vancouver in night mode

Roomette by day.  A comfortable armchair by day.  The footrest covers a toilet bowl.  Washbasin in the bottom left corner, with the top lowered over it.  See 360º photo.


Roomette by night.  The bed is lowered from behind the seat.  The shape of the bed means there's just room to stand with the door closed.  See 360º photo.

Bedrooms for two people   360º photo day   360º photo night

A bedroom is a fully-enclosed lockable compartment for two people, described on the VIA Rail website as a cabin for 2.  Each Manor sleeping-car has six bedrooms, lettered A to F.  Each bedroom has a sink with hot and cold water, a drinking water tap (cups provided), and a small en suite toilet.  By day, you sit in two comfortable free-standing armchairs.  In the evening the sleeper attendant will fold down the lower berth, stored on its end on the corridor side of the compartment, and lower the upper berth from the ceiling.  The armchairs fold up to fit under the lower berth.  There's a hot shower in each sleeping-car - clean towels, soap & shampoo are all provided in your bedroom.  Each bedroom also comes with tissues, two power sockets and an electric fan.

Tip:  Bedroom F is larger than the other rooms and in Canadian Pacific days was sold as a 'compartment', a higher-priced tier of accommodation than 'bedroom'.  VIA Rail now make no distinction, so if booking by phone or at a station, ask if a bedroom F is available as it means more room for no extra cost.  However, it can't be specified online. 

Tip:  Partitions between adjacent bedrooms can be removed to make a family suite for 4 people.  The partition is on the 'bed' side of the compartment, so bedrooms A & B connect, C & D connect, and E & F connect.

A bedroom in day mode on the Toronto to Vancouver train   A bedroom in night mode in the Toronto-Vancouver train

Bedroom by day.  Two moveable armchairs, sink (shown with cover in place), private enclosed toilet.  This is bedroom E in sleeping-car Bliss Manor See 360º photo


Bedroom by night.  Seats fold away and an upper & lower berth fold out.  See 360º photo

Restaurant car

There's a restaurant car - two restaurant cars in summer and at other busy times of year - for Sleeper Plus and Prestige passengers, with meals included in the fare.  Soft drinks & wine cost extra in Sleeper Plus, but are included in Prestige.  The restaurant car serves three meals a day, in the eastbound direction (Train 2) this is breakfast, lunch & dinner, but in the westbound direction (Train 1, at least at the time of writing) this is continental breakfast 06:30-09:00 (no cooked dishes available other than hot oatmeal), brunch 10:30 to 13:30 (with a choice of a cooked breakfast or a couple of more lunch-like dishes including a vegetarian option), then dinner with two or three sittings, typically at 6pm & 8pm in winter, or at 5pm, 7pm & 9pm in summer and at other busy times of year.  Dinner comes with a choice of starter (typically soup of the day or salad), a choice of several main courses including a vegetarian option, and a couple of dessert options.  Reports suggest that they may now have resumed serving breakfast, lunch & dinner in both directions, the brunch idea not having proved popular.

Table reservations:  For breakfast & lunch there are no table reservations, you go along at any time during serving hours and ask to be seated.  If the restaurant is full you'll be asked to wait in the adjacent skyline car and called when a table is free.  Table reservations must be made for lunch (eastbound only) & dinner (both directions).  You'll usually be asked which dinner sitting you'd like during the preceding brunch/lunch service, but for the first night when leaving Toronto, restaurant car staff set up a table to take dinner reservations inside the Union Station VIA business lounge after you check in, before the train boards.

Tip:  In summer, the 7pm sitting is the most popular, but Prestige class passengers get first choice so it fills up fast.  Have a choice ready between 5pm & 9pm!

Dining car on the 'Canadian' train from Toronto to Vancouver   Dinner on the 'Canadian' train

Restaurant car.  This is restaurant car Empress, laid up for dinner.

Dinner - beef steak

Another main course at dinner on the 'Canadian' train   Brunch on the 'Canadian' train

Dinner - pork steak...

Brunch - my favourite, the Transcontinental...

Skyline car

There's a skyline lounge/dome car for Sleeper Plus passengers next to the restaurant car, or next to each restaurant car when the train runs with two of them.  The skyline car has a lounge at the forward end, tables & chairs at the rear end, an observation dome in the centre with attendant's galley underneath.  A side corridor links the lounge area with the table area passing under the dome, down two steps, along past the galley, then up two steps.  At one end of the tables area is a complimentary tea & coffee station, you'll also find juice, biscuits and pastries here in the morning.  In the skyline you can buy Canadian red & white wine by the glass, spirits, beer, snacks & soft drinks, just ask the attendant.  Incidentally, the photos below show a skyline car refurbished in the 2000s with the newer green & brown interior, but others still have the older 1990s blue interior as shown here.  Activities are held in the skyline from time to time, such as talks on landscape or wildlife, and wine & beer tastings.

Tip:  Seats in the dome are first-come first-served, it's not normally a problem to find a seat up there, although you're asked not to hog dome seats for the whole trip and let others have a go.  However, travelling westbound, grab a dome seat early on departure from Jasper into the Rockies as that's when they fill up...

Skyline dome getting its glass cleaned at Jasper   A skyline dome

Skyline car getting a clean at Jasper...

Observation dome in the skyline car...

A skyline lounge on the Canadian from Toronto to Vancouver   Tables area in a skyline car on the Canadian

Lounge at one end of the car with stairs to dome...

Tables at the other end with tea & coffee station.

Prestige class.  See 360° photo

VIA Rail introduced a new luxury class on the Canadian in 2014, called Prestige class.  Prestige class consists of one or two Chateau class sleeping-cars that have been completely gutted and rebuilt with an all-new interior.  Prestige passengers travel in hotel-standard luxury bedrooms with double bed convertible to corner sofa, en suite toilet & shower, flat-screen TV with video selection, complimentary mini-bar and an extra-large window.  Prestige passengers use the same restaurant car as Sleeper Plus passengers, meals and drinks are included and they get first choice of sitting.  Two Prestige class sleeper compartments and a wheelchair-accessible compartment are housed in the Park car at the rear of the train with its bullet lounge, dome and full-service bar, exclusively for Prestige class passengers from 06:00-16:00 every day.

Prestige class on the Canadian from Toronto to Vancouver Prestige class sleeper in night mode

Prestige class, day mode...

Prestige class, night mode with double bed...

En suite toilet in Prestige class on the Canadian   En suite shower in Prestige class on the Canadian Prestige class sleeper from Toronto to Vancouver

En suite toilet...


...and shower.

The door to the en suite is to the left of the TV.

The Park car

At the rear of the train is the Park car, the Canadian's signature vehicle.  18 Park cars were built in 1954-55 by the Canadian Pacific Railway, all named after famous Canadian national parks.  The Park car features (1) the Bullet Lounge at the very rear providing great views back along the track, with complimentary tea & coffee, (2) a raised observation dome and (3) a full-service bar with tables & chairs underneath the dome.  The forward end of the car also houses two Prestige class sleeper compartments and a wheelchair-accessible sleeper compartment.  The Park cars used on the Canadian have been refurbished to top quality Prestige class standards, and the Park car is in effect the bar/dome/lounge car for Prestige class passengers.

Access to the Park car:  In the peak season (from the end of April to mid-October) Prestige class passengers get exclusive access to the Park car 06:00-16:00 every day.  Sleeper Plus passengers may only visit the Park car outside these restricted times and even then, labels on many dome seats say 'Reserved for Prestige class passengers'.  In winter, Sleeper Plus passengers have unrestricted access to the Park car and only a couple of rows of dome seats are likely to be reserved for Prestige class passengers.

The rear of the Canadian, stopped at Sioux Lookout

Park car Prince Albert Park brings up the rear of VIA 1, the Canadian, at Sioux Lookout...

Forward end of the bullet lounge   Observation dome

Looking forwards from the bullet lounge, showing stairs to dome & steps down to bar.  Note tea & coffee station. 


The observation dome, all but a few rear seats labelled as reserved for Prestige class.

The Park car's bar, under the dome   The Park car's bullet lounge

The full-service bar, underneath the dome.  Drinks are included in Prestige class, extra in Sleeper Plus..


The Park car's bullet lounge at the very rear.  This is my favourite place on the train...

What's the journey like?

The Canadian spans Canada from Toronto to the Pacific, an epic trans-continental journey which can be divided geographically (and scenically) into 3 distinct parts:  (1)  The lakes, fir trees and rocky outcrops of the great Canadian Shield from Toronto to Winnipeg, (2)  the rolling Prairies from Winnipeg to Jasper, and (3) the Rockies from Jasper to Vancouver.  I've seen some Tripadvisor posts claim you should fly to Jasper and just do the Rockies - a completely mistaken view, as every part of this epic train ride has it's own scenic and historical interest.  Indeed, I sometimes think that I like the two day journey across the Shield almost as much as the day through the Rockies, perhaps because no-one tells you how lovely the Shield is before you go.  Well, I'm telling you now.  And as you'll read below, the most jaw-dropping part of the Rockies experience was approaching Jasper from the east, an experience you won't get if you only travel from Jasper westwards.

Part 1:  The great Canadian Shield

From just west of Toronto to just east of Winnipeg, the train traverses the Great Canadian Shield, a sparsely-populated area of lakes and forests interspersed with outcrops of igneous rock - see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Shield.  It's a lovely area, taking 2 days to cross.

Toronto Union Station - exterior

Toronto Union Station, with the CN Tower to the west...

Toronto Union Station - interior

The main concourse at Toronto Union Station.  Access to trains (and to the baggage check-in desk) is past the two Doric columns on the right.  The entrance to the VIA Business Lounge is behind the camera.  The main exit to the street is out of shot to the left of the camera.

VIA Business Lounge, Toronto   VIA Business Lounge, Toronto

Business Lounge...  After dropping off any checked bags, Sleeper Plus & Prestige passengers should check in for the Canadian at the reception desk inside the VIA Business Lounge where you are ticked off the passenger list.  Table reservations for dinner in the diner are also made in the lounge before boarding.  Staff in the lounge will tell you when boarding starts, and which track to go to.

The Canadian about to leave Toronto

VIA 1 is good to go...  This is the Park car Prince Albert Park at the rear of the Canadian, ready to leave Toronto for Winnipeg & Vancouver.  Note the CN Tower in the background...

Looking back at the CN Tower as the train to Vancouver leaves Toronto

Leaving Toronto...  Grab a seat in the dome car and look back as the train leaves Toronto.

Scenery from the train in the Shield

The Shield...  Soon after leaving Toronto, the train starts crossing the Great Canadian Shield, which lasts until just east of Winnipeg.  Lakes, ponds, waterways, forests and rocky outcrops...

Scenery from the train in the Shield

Mile after mile of beautiful still waters & forest.  Remarkable how sparsely populated this area is, even so close to Toronto ...

Scenery from the train in the Shield

All best seen from a dome on the Canadian...

Scenery from the train in the Shield

Lake after lake...

More scenery as the Toronto-Vancouver Canadian crosses the shield

...and more lakes.

Part 2:  The Prairies

The scenery now changes dramatically.  From just east of Winnipeg to a little way west of Edmonton, the train crosses the wide open Prairies of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Prairies.

Winnipeg Union Station - exterior   Winnipeg Union Station - interior

Winnipeg Union Station...


The entrance hall...

Train 1, the Canadian, at Winnipeg

Winnipeg...  If it's on time, the train stops at Winnipeg for 2 hours or so.  Locomotives are refuelled, the train is restocked and the crew changes over - most crews on the Canadian work out of Winnipeg.  You can stretch your legs and visit the station, although there's not much to see in the area immediately outside.  If you leave the train, take your ticket, the platform will be closed while the train is serviced and you'll re-board when boarding starts.

Scenery from the train on the Prairies

Little House on the Prairie...

The Canadian arrives at Saskatoon

Saskatoon... The train stops at Saskatoon, usually for around 25 minutes.  When leaving, the train may reverse out, then go forward again past the station on a track through the adjacent freight yard.

Scenery from the train on the Prairies

Farms, rolling grassland, woods & fields...

Scenery from the train on the Prairies

Crossing the Fabyan Trestle Bridge over the Battle River, opened in 1909, 59m high, 845m long, located roughly 300km west of Saskatoon, 200km east of Edmonton.  See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fabyan_Trestle_Bridge.

VIA Rail train 1, the Canadian, at Edmonton

Edmonton.  Edmonton station is a small modern building on a dead-end track on the edge of town, the train will back slowly into the station.  You can see the downtown skyscrapers in the distance.  The Canadian will stop for several hours if it is on time and you can stretch your legs on the platform.  Watch out for those vicious Edmonton mosquitoes!

Part 3:  The Rockies

The Man in Seat 61 says:  "The morning after leaving Edmonton, I awoke around 7am.  I lifted the blind a few inches and saw no mountains, just endless trees.  Odd, I'd thought we'd be in the Rockies by now.  Leaving wife and kids asleep, I dressed and headed for the skyline car.  I poured myself a coffee and juice from the coffee station, grabbed a Danish pastry and climbed the stairs to the dome, occupied by just a handful of early risers.  I turned around, and froze.  My jaw gaped open and I almost dropped my coffee.  The view I saw is the one shown here, the train speeding through an avenue of fir trees straight for the Rocky Mountains, their eastern flank lit pink by the morning sun.  It was the defining moment of this ride on the Canadian and a sight I will never forget."

View from the dome as the train approaches the Rockies

The Canadian races towards the Rocky Mountains, their eastern face turned pink in the early morning sun...

Another view from the dome as the train approaches the Rockies

The Rockies get ever closer...

View from the dome in the Rockies

From the dome, you can see signals turn from green to red as the locomotives pass...

In the Rockies, along the Athabasca River

The area just before Jasper is stunning, running along the Athabasca River...

Scenery in the Canadian Rockies
More scenery as the train runs along the Athabasca River

More scenery along the Athabasca River...

Roche Miette in Jasper National Park, seen from the train

A superb view of the 2,316m high Roche Miette in Jasper National Park, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roche_Miette.

Train 1, the Canadian, at Jasper

Jasper, in Jasper National Park...  The train stops here for around 3 hours if it's on time - on this occasion the train arrived 2h late, but left on time.  This is another chance to stretch your legs - although as in Winnipeg, the platform is closed while the train is serviced and you are only allowed to re-board when boarding starts.

Locomotives on train 1 at Jasper

Time to have a look at the locomotives up front...

The train's dome windows are cleaned at Jasper

The dome windows get a wash and brush up before their day-long journey through the Rockies...

Mt Yellowhead, seen from the train

Yellowhead Pass...  On this occasion the weather was not ideal - this is probably Mount Yellowhead itself.

The journey through the Rockies continues...

Mt Robson, seen from the train

Mt Robson...  The imposing Mount Robson is on the right when going west, with the best views looking backwards from a dome or bullet lounge.  Today it is being shy...

Scenery from the train in the Rockies

The scenery just keeps on coming, around every bend.

Pyramid Falls

Pyramid Falls...  This is a well-known landmark on this route, on the left shortly before arriving at Kamloops North.  Announcements will be made and the train will slow, so you won't miss it.

Scenery from the train along the North Thompson River

The train follows the North Thompson River...

Scenery from the train along the North Thompson River

More scenery along the North Thompson River...

VIA Rail train 1, the Canadian, at Kamloops North

Kamloops North...  Note the refuelling truck.

The Canadian on the shore of Kamloops Lake

Kamloops Lake...  After leaving Kamloops the train crosses the North Thompson River and starts following the shores of Kamloops Lake.  The scenery gets progressively more arid, passing virtual desert...

Sunset over Kamloops Lake

Sunset over Kamloops Lake...

The Canadian at the end of Kamloops Lake

Night falls as the train follows the shore of Kamloops Lake and then the Thompson River - North and South Thompson rivers meet at Kamloops.  During the night the train passes Lytton, where the Thompson flows into the Fraser River, and the Canadian then follows the Fraser river canyon to Vancouver...

The Canadian backs into Vancouver Pacific Central

Hello Vancouver!  Approaching Vancouver next morning, the train stops, then reverses slowly into Vancouver Pacific Central station...

VIA Rail train 1, the Canadian, arrived at Vancouver

The Canadian, arrived at Vancouver in this case 1h30 early.  After the train arrives, the front portion with the baggage van, economy seats & economy class skyline car is uncoupled and shunted into an adjacent platform.  You can see both portions here.

Vancouver Pacific Central station - interior   Vancouver Pacific Central station - exterior

Vancouver Pacific Central station...  The station first opened in 1919, and today also handles Amtrak trains to Seattle and (in the adjacent bus bays) buses to Victoria and Whistler.  It's a short taxi or bus ride from most downtown hotels.

Video guideToronto to Vancouver by train

A journey from Toronto to Vancouver on VIA Rail's Canadian, showing the train inside & out, the food, and the amazing scenery...

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Luggage arrangements

VIA Rail baggage desk at Toronto   VIA Rail baggage desk at Vancouver

Baggage desk at Toronto Union.  Walk through the arch marked Entrance to trains and down the slope, it's then on the right in the hall under all the tracks.


Baggage desk at Vancouver Pacific Central, located at the far left-hand end of the main hall as you walk in from the street, or far right end when you walk in from the platforms.

Travel tipsTrans-Canada Rail Guide

A bit of history

There were (and are) two competing trans-continental rail routes across Canada, Canadian Pacific and Canadian National.

The Canadian Pacific Railway opened the first trans-continental line across Canada in 1885, running from Montreal/Toronto to Vancouver via Winnipeg, Calgary, Banff & Kamloops.  Instead of taking the easiest route through the Rockies via the Yellowhead pass, political tension with the United States led them to take a more difficult (and scenic) southerly route through the Kicking Horse pass.

In 1955 Canadian Pacific introduced a fleet of futuristic stainless-steel cars with observation domes onto its premier train, the Canadian, and it is these classic cars which were rebuilt in the 1990s to operate today's VIA Rail Canadian.

The second and later line was built around 1917 by the Canadian Northern Railway, which was nationalised in 1921 as part of Canadian National Railways or 'CN' (as in CN Tower), and re-privatised in 1995.  The CN route runs from Montreal/Toronto to Vancouver to the north of the CPR route, via Winnipeg, Edmonton, Jasper and the easier Yellowhead pass to Kamloops & Vancouver.  It is this later CN route which is used by today's VIA Rail Canadian.

VIA Rail was formed in 1978 as a government corporation to take over the passenger trains from Canadian Pacific & Canadian National, which now only run freight trains.  Initially, VIA Rail continued to run both the CP's Canadian and the CN's Super-Continental daily on each of these two trans-continental routes, with the rolling stock getting progressively older and less reliable.  However, in 1990, these two daily trains were reduced to just one train running several times a week, the present-day Canadian from Toronto to Vancouver via the Canadian National route through Winnipeg, Edmonton and Jasper.

VIA Rail lacked the funds to buy new cars, so they completely rebuilt and upgraded the original stainless steel coaches built by Budd in 1955 for the Canadian Pacific's Canadian, making this train a real classic in its own right, albeit now running on the 'wrong' company's route.

There are now no regular passenger services at all on the original 1885 Canadian Pacific route from Toronto to Vancouver through Calgary or Banff, other than the Rocky Mountaineer tourist train which runs between Banff & Vancouver, 3 times a week from April to October.

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Suggested hotels

In Toronto:  Fairmont Royal York

Directly across the road from Toronto's Union Station, the Fairmont Royal York Hotel is Toronto's most iconic place to stay, a personal favourite (I've stayed there several times now) and one of the world's grand hotels with over 1,000 rooms.  It was a railway hotel opened by the Canadian Pacific Railway in June 1929, at that time the tallest building in the British Empire.  The large eastern extension was completed in 1959.  It's easily the most convenient and historic place to stay before or after catching your train, yet as Toronto hotels go it's not even that expensive - so if your budget will stretch, treat yourself!  There's more historical information about the Royal York hotel at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairmont_Royal_York.

Royal York Hotel, Toronto   Royal York Hotel, Toronto   Royal York Hotel, Toronto

A Fairmont Gold room at the Royal York...


En suite...


The imposing exterior...

Royal York Hotel, Toronto   Royal York Hotel, Toronto

The Royal York seen from a departing train...


The impressive grand lobby...

In Jasper:  Fairmont Jasper Lodge

First established in 1915 in association with the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad, it became a Canadian National Railway hotel in the 1920s.  Bing Crosby, Marilyn Monroe, and members of the British Royal family including King George IV and the Queen have stayed here.  It's on Lake Beauvert, a 9 minute drive from Jasper station.

In Vancouver:  Fairmont Vancouver Hotel

In the centre of downtown Vancouver, next to Christ Church Cathedral and only a few blocks from the Waterfront, the Fairmont Vancouver Hotel is a former railway hotel.  It was started by Canadian National Railways but completed in partnership with rival Canadian Pacific, opened in 1939 by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.  It's another iconic Canadian chateau-style hotel, a true Vancouver landmark.  And if your budget will stretch, Fairmont won't disappoint. 

If you want something cheaper, the St Regis Hotel is also excellently located downtown and also a historic Vancouver landmark, opened in 1913.

Fairmont Hotel Vancouver   Fairmont Hotel Vancouver

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